CHAPTER 2      

 

THE EARLY DAYS

 

MOONSHOT ARRIVES

 

            We had money coming back from income taxes, so we decided to spend it having Moonshot moved from Detroit to San Francisco. We found a mover that would give us a reasonable rate if we were willing to wait until another boat would be making the same move. We waited 4 months, it cost just under $3000.00. I had made contact with Sheila of San Francisco Divers about help getting the boat fixed up and into the water. After several false starts and delays in Moonshot's arrival, Sheila’s partner decided to move away and their business dissolved. Being a true boat person, she continued being helpful and linked us with Jock McClain of San Francisco Boat Works.

            The time for the move finally came. It was exciting thinking about sailing again, after being landlubbers for almost 4 years. Seeing Moonshot on the truck with the city of San Francisco as the backdrop was exhilarating, though reality soon set in. We witnessed the storm damage Moonshot had taken in Michigan for the first time. Also, sometime during the truck ride, Moonshot had been broken into. Its VHF radio and batteries had been stolen. The tinted plastic forward hatch had been shattered as well as the fiberglass under its hinges. We didn't have keys to the locks and had to cut them. There was much work ahead of us.

 

Figure 3: Moonshot's storm damage

 

            In Michigan, boats had to be hauled out of the water in late October to be stored on its land-based cradle for the winter. Moonshot was delivered to California on its cradle. While the truck was still in the parking lot, we noticed there were no cradles around. Jock informed us boats stayed in the water year round in California. We gave the cradle to the truck driver.

            Jock was helpful and had us feeling as if everything was going to be OK, so we began making lists of the work we wanted him to do, itemizing what would be covered by insurance and what we would be paying for ourselves. We were free to stay on Moonshot while it was in the yard and do some of the work ourselves. For the next few weekends, that's where we lived, working on the boat, eating at the Ramp Restaurant next door, and sleeping aboard on dry land.

            After several weeks, Moonshot was finally put in the water. It couldn't leave yet because we were waiting for more parts to come in. We could, however, take it out sailing. One of the tasks we had given Jock was to install the jib roller furling system. A roller-furling jib brings the work involved with using a jib back from the foredeck to the more protected cockpit. We began sailing out of the boat yard and immediately realized that it was very windy in San Francisco Bay. We had to become familiar with using roller furling and a larger Genoa jib. Marsha became uncomfortable with the way the boat handled because it was demonstrating a strong weather helm. So we started down the path of learning to sail in San Francisco Bay, and learning how to sail the new Moonshot.

            We had been advised the good sailing was in the northern part of San Francisco Bay. We wanted a marina north enough for good sailing but as far south as possible to shorten the drive from home. I had put my name on the waiting list at Oyster Cove Marina. A coworker advised me that during the storm of '83, boats berthed at Oyster Cove had taken storm damage while the boats in Brisbane Marina did not. They were protected by the San Bruno hill. He also stated since the marina was owned by the city, it had good security because it was patrolled by police regularly. After several more weeks passed, we were ready to move Moonshot to its berth in Brisbane Marina, slip 5-81, at Sierra Point.

 

Figure 4: Brisbane Marina off Sierra Point

 

            We had made one trip to the marina for a weekend prior to the permanent move. On the way south, we decided to try our luck fishing. I had purchased a new rod and reel and wanted to put it to work. We brought along flour and cooking oil just in case. Within a few minutes of dropping two lines in the water just off Candlestick Park, we had a large fish on each line. Since we weren't confident identifying the fish, when we pulled into the dock space, I asked the first person I saw if these things were edible. The man said, "It looks like you're having a shark dinner." This was the beginning of our introduction to the Pacific Coast's sea life. Shark was quite a departure from the fresh water fish we were used to, such as bluegills, perch, trout, and lake bass.

 

Figure 5: Shark Dinner

 

            Marsha has a fish phobia we suspect was caused by her Mother when she was a young girl. She was not aware that her pet goldfish had died. Her mother put the dead goldfish down the back of her shirt as a practical joke. It slid through to the floor and Marsha stepped on it barefooted. This event manifested itself in Marsha not being able to touch fish without getting extremely squeamish, yet they fascinate her. She strolled the shoreline waiting for me to finish cleaning the sharks in the cockpit. Afterwards, we grilled delicious shark steaks just as the sun was setting.

            Moonshot finally reached her homeport in October of 1984. There is a continuous things-to-do list with a boat and we began ours by installing a Y-valve in our head pump out system. We had asked Jock to do it while Moonshot was at the boat works but he had just thrown the part in the boat without doing the installation. He did change the plumbing by routing from the toilet to a newly installed through hull fitting instead of the small holding tank. We installed the Y-valve later.

            As we started the Y-valve installation, we learned that there was a substance in our holding tank. How long had it been there? That's probably why Jock's crew didn't finish the job. Who's was it? Without answers to the question, we motored to the pump out station at Brisbane Marina's guest dock. We filled the tank with water and flushed it 6 times. Upon the advice of West Marine, we use Sealube occasionally to keep all the mechanisms in the system oiled. More recent information from a West Marine employee is that cooking oil works as well as Sealube, and doesn't cost $6.00 a pint.

 

MAINSAIL TRIM

 

            One of my friends from work with lots of sailing experience joined us sailing occasionally. Tom's first comment was, "Don't even think about going outside the Golden Gate Bridge until after your first year on the Bay." He was sailing with us one day when the wind picked up quite a bit. Tom went forward and reefed the main, reducing the mainsail area by lowering the sail by about 25% and securing the loose portion of the sail to the boom. That was the first time it had ever been reefed. There was no great reefing system, just four reef lines and a cringle, or grommet at each end of the sail at the same level as the reef lines. Reefing this way was hard because it was usually very windy when we needed to reef. We ended up leaving the mainsail reefed from March until September.

            It seemed like there were many more things that Moonshot still needed. We could think in terms of thousands of dollars to get all the gadgetry that would come to mind from time-to-time. Of course, those thoughts are no longer with us. We eventually spent the thousands of dollars, chunk by chunk, enhancement by enhancement. Being concerned about sail trim is necessary for sailors, and sailors we were becoming, once again. One of the first acquisitions we made, once the boat was in the water, was a boom vang for tensioning the boom downward to flatten the mainsail. We still had more to learn about Moonshot's rigging. We could have taken a class to learn how a sailboat should be rigged and sailed for the conditions locally, but we were having fun doing it the hard way, discovering how to improve each aspect of the sail's trim, one-by-one, until we figured it out completely.

            Joe Rockmore, another friend I became acquainted with through my job, helped me advance my sailing knowledge many times. He introduced me to the topping lift, the line that keeps the boom from dropping to the deck when the mainsail isn't hoisted. His advice was to unhook the topping lift from the boom after the mainsail had been hoisted, to let the sail's weight flatten itself. This technique also allows the boom vang to function properly when more flattening is required.

            For better performance and comfort, we decided we needed a traveler for the mainsheet. Having a traveler would enable us to move the position the mainsheet attaches to the boat from the center to the right or left, out of the way. It would also provide yet another dimension in sail trim. Originally, Moonshot's mainsheet led from the aft end of the boom to a U-bolt coming through the fiberglass stern coaming just in front of the backstay bolts. Motoring for any length of time became uncomfortable because the mainsheet was positioned where the helmsman stands or sits. Waves that rocked the boat caused the mainsheet to bang into the helmsman's shoulders. We contemplated various designs to solve this problem. One habit we were developing, as we contemplated design changes to Moonshot, was to walk around the docks examining other boats.

            We contemplated having the traveler over the companionway entrance but decided that the stresses where the mainsheet would be mounted to the boom would be too close to the center of the boom leaving too much force from the mainsail on the aft end of the boom. We discussed this with Watkins and they agreed with our thinking. We didn't want a traveler in front of the steering wheel, which we had seen on some of the boats. We decided on locating the traveler on the stern coaming. We sketched the available space and were able to find a flat track with just enough clearance. We decided it didn't need to have outhaul lines to move the traveler car to the right or left. We used a 1/4" thick track with a small car that would slide back and forth in the track. There was a pin in the car that set its position by spring loading into holes in the top of the track. Lifting the pin up and sliding it moved the car.

 

Figure 6: Moonshot's new mainsheet traveler

 

            We used this system successfully for some time, but it had never been subjected to any heavy loading. We were able to test it under load one day during a vacation in the California Delta. The Delta consists of 1000 miles of navigable waterways surrounded by lush vegetation, sandy beaches, quaint towns, unique restaurants and offers great fishing, swimming, and warm weather. It took two days to reach the Delta, passing through Suisun Bay and up the San Joaquin River. The second day of the trip was about 8 hours of wing-on-wing sailing. We didn't have a whisker pole on the jib or a preventer on the main to make sure the sails couldn't flap around or jibe. At the end of the day, we were about to head into a marina with a restaurant to have dinner and tie up for the night. We were both looking at a chart of the area when I saw the boom coming across from starboard in an uncontrolled jibe. Marsha was at the helm. I yelled duck and we both ducked just in time to avoid injury. Maybe the pin in the car gave way or it wasn't securely in position, but the car went sliding across the track to port. It broke the stop at the end of the track and kept on going. It smashed the cowl vent on the port side of the stern rail, then proceeded past to bend the lifeline release mechanism. Our first uncontrolled jibe was quite a shocker. We looked down at the track and the last 8" on the port side was curved about 30 degrees off of its centerline. Back to the drawing board.

            We started rethinking the design and ended up spending more money at West Marine. I selected a track with the same footprint dimensions but was 5/8" thick and used a Harkin traveler car with plastic ball bearings. You have to be careful during the installation of the car so the ball bearings don't fall out. The car is sold with a piece of track to keep the ball bearings in place. You install the car by holding the track that comes with the car flush with the track you are installing the car on, and then just slide it on. The device comes with no clear warnings however and it is very easy to fall into the trap of sliding the car off the track for closer examination. We did just that, fortunately at the store, so there were experienced people available to help us put it back together.

            We used a 2:1 purchase on the outhauls, as some kind of system was required to fix the car in position. It didn't function with a pin in holes in the track like our initial design. The parts all fit into the available space, though I did have to remove the original U-bolt to make room for the new car to slide past the center position. I filled the two holes left by the removed U-bolt with Marine Tex, a two part epoxy filler. I put duck tape over the underside of the holes so the Marine Tex wouldn't fall through into the boat. The next day after the Marine Tex hardened, I used a chisel to carve the hardened compound flush with the surrounding fiberglass. It looked great. We've did experience one more uncontrolled jibe and the new system held up fine. The first design served as a good prototype. Having made these changes, we were now controlling the mainsail shape for better performance.

 

FUNNY NOISE FROM THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT

 

            As our confidence sailing on the Bay grew, we started taking friends out to join the fun. One of the things that keeps sailing fresh and exciting is taking people new to it out and experiencing their enjoyment and sense of discovery. It's as if you're experiencing it all over again. One couple we enjoyed taking out was Jim and Kathy. One Memorial Day weekend out with them was warm but we were motoring because the wind hadn't started blowing yet. With good tidal conditions it takes about 2 hours to sail from Brisbane Marina to the San Francisco waterfront. As we approached the city, we heard a funny noise coming from the engine compartment beneath us. We looked at the engine, heard the funny noise, but it still seemed to be running fine. The wind picked up so we started sailing and shut the engine off. There were no further funny noises that day.

            The next outing was with Bernie, a person we had met while living in Colorado, who had moved to California to work at Marsha's company. He invited a friend of his from school to join us, Christine. After we started the engine, we noticed the noise again. Bernie and I checked everything we could think of, but discovered nothing wrong. Marsha was apprehensive about leaving the dock because we didn't know what the noise was and it didn't seem "RIGHT". Bernie and I were both impetuous and thought because the engine was running fine and that we would only be using it briefly to get out of and back into the marina, that we should go ahead and go out. There was plenty of sunshine and wind.

            I learned a very important lesson that day. When things mechanical don't sound right, they are probably not right. You should be prepared and think through the consequences of a mechanical failure in those conditions. If it is the auxiliary engine on your sailboat, the consequences can be costly. We had a good sail and turned the engine on to get back to the dock once we returned to the channel entrance. We made it all the way into the slip OK. As the vessel was in position in the slip and still moving forward, I shifted into reverse. At that point the boat stopped but there was another loud noise. A ring of oil color was expanding from the boat on the water's surface in every direction. This was definitely not a good, or legal thing to have happen.

            The culprit was the kill cable connected to the knob that is supposed to be used for shutting off the engine but was no longer connected. We stopped the engine by reversing back on the throttle all the way. The loose cable had somehow wrapped itself around the 3" dryer hose used to vent air from the engine compartment. Both the dryer hose and kill cable had wrapped themselves around the drive shaft. This had been the original noise we had heard, when we were out with Jim and Kathy. The second noise that occurred when I put the engine in reverse was the wires that were wrapped around the drive shaft being sucked inside the transmission. The oil spill was the transmission fluid resulting from the burst transmission shaft seal. It was a mess.

            It was a blessing this calamity occurred while Bernie was on the boat because he became personally committed to help fix the problem. He has a small physical frame and possesses good mechanical ingenuity. He started working from the doorway to the engine compartment inside the starboard lazaret. I started working from on top of the engine through the opening behind the steps into the cabin. We began by cutting and removing the chunks of cable, wire, and plastic that were wrapped around the shaft.

            We became involved with the good folks at Peninsula Marine Service while trying to fix this problem. They patiently stepped us through the dilemma by loaning us tools and providing advice. It eventually became clear that we were not going to be able to replace the ruptured seal while the engine was still in the boat. We used a chain fall attached to the boom to hoist the 225-pound engine out of its compartment. We carted the engine up to the trunk of a borrowed station wagon and drove it to Peninsula Marine. We then reversed the whole process after they completed the repair. It took 6 weeks in the middle of the summer sailing season before Moonshot was back to normal. I recalled something a friend in college once said to me, "Happy people never learn anything".

 

THE IN THE WATER BOAT SHOW

 

            Every September, there's an in-the-water boat show in either Oakland or Alameda. Marsha and I were invited to attend the 1986 show by a friend of mine from work. At about that time Marsha and I had started thinking how nice it would be to trade Moonshot in for a larger boat. It seems that over the years, many boat owners we've talked to, both sail and powerboat owners, want to get a bigger boat someday. This was true for us, a little more cabin space, more features, etc. This can be a problem if it gets out of hand. I remember talking about it with neighbors in the marina. Richard and Hillarie spent much of their time on board his Endeavor 32, Shadow. They were usually busy working on their boat preparing it to go cruising someday. Richard had a distinctive tattoo of the Golden Gate Bridge on the left side of his chest. When we arrived at the dock for the weekend, he would always pause from working on his current project and greet us with a friendly smile. Hillarie once stated "Too many people don't love the boat they're with, and wanting something different can get in the way of their pleasure and dreams, like going cruising for a long time".

            The day of the show arrived. There were boats of all sizes to tour and many displays. One thought we kept experiencing was going up a few feet in length didn't gain you much more than we had with Moonshot in terms of space, but the cost was considerably higher. It seemed like every foot longer was another several thousand dollars in price. We did soak up many ideas though.

            After the show, an interesting phenomenon occurred. We had chilled a bottle of champagne and decided to stop by Moonshot on the way home from Alameda to enjoy it and hang out in the marina. On board, while sipping the champagne, we began pondering the fact that bigger boats cost a lot more money. We started talking about what could we do to Moonshot to make it better and enjoy it more. We were on the verge of learning about an important concept that all boaters eventually come to know, "THE LIST". As we would think of an idea, some new feature to implement on Moonshot, we would write it down on the list. We didn't have any paper on board so there was a frenzy to find another scrap of paper when we filled up whatever we could find. We were using mostly small postits, pieces of a paper bag, and some matchbooks. In the course of the next couple of hours, we had identified nearly 50 enhancements of varying degrees of cost, in terms of dollars, time and energy. The lists were like a road map to all those things that kept popping to mind that it sure would be nice to have someday. We didn't know it yet, but we were beginning to bond with Moonshot.

 

BALANCED RIGGING

 

            One of the items from the list I focused on first was the concept of boat balance. Moonshot seemed to always present a strong weather helm when the wind picked up. Sailing on a beat, close hauled was always work. I began reading books on the topic and learned there are a few parameters you can adjust to improve balance and reduce weather helm. Optimizing weight distribution and adjusting the rigging can address part of the problem. If you have a weather helm, you want to have your mast stepped slightly forward of perpendicular. With the opposite condition, a lee helm, you want to have the mast raked back aft of perpendicular. The correct condition for the helm is to give slightly to weather. The theory is, in the unlikely event the skipper falls overboard, the vessel will head up into the wind with an unattended helm and stall, as opposed to sailing off downwind.

            Given this knowledge from The Sailors Handbook, I clearly spotted the fact that Moonshot's masthead was raked aft several inches. When standing down the dock a few slips, it was clear the mast was far behind perpendicular. It's a simple thing to adjust, no? You just loosen the turnbuckle on the backstay and tighten the turnbuckle on the forestay, right? Then adjust the shrouds that support the mast sideways accordingly. That's all there is to it. Well, it wasn't quite that easy. The forestay turnbuckle was inaccessible without disassembling the furling drum.

            So a tangent project began and I started figuring out how the furling system fit together. Taking it apart is easy, you just unscrew all the screws, right? Well, we were on the verge of learning another important lesson in boating around salt water. Aluminum and stainless steel in close contact get married or bond together tightly because of electrolysis. The stainless steel screws in the cast aluminum drum housing wouldn't come out. It took more than one weekend working on the problem, breaking heads off screws, drilling holes in the screws, then breaking drill bits and easy-outs inside the screws. We've since learned there's an anti-seizing compound you can apply to screws when first inserting them to help with this problem, but it had obviously not been used on my furler.

            It was getting close to two years since Moonshot had been put in the water. That was what we learned to be the recommended time for a haul-out and bottom paint job. Having not succeeded in getting at the forestay turnbuckle and still believing making the adjustment would help the boat's balance and handling, we decided to go back to San Francisco Boat Works to have the haulout and get assistance with this problem. It turned out the workers in the boatyard had a hard time as well, and the labor costs were high. They messed up the drum in the process and as it turned out, the cast aluminum version was a prototype for the design. The final version from Cruising Design was a plastic drum with a cast aluminum shaft. With our new furling parts, they were now able to adjust the turnbuckle all the way forward. It helped reduce the force of the weather helm some, but it still wasn't enough. The wire lengths for the stays were not correct from the manufacturer. I would have to wait until we replaced the rigging until I could correct the situation further.

            We learned another important saltwater lesson during that haul-out. Jock had noticed extreme pitting on the drive shaft from corrosion. This problem led us to our understanding of sacrificial zincs used to prevent corrosion of more durable metals in the water nearby. We had a new drive shaft machined and zincs installed on it. Fortunately, the old shaft was sacrificed for the propeller, which was OK. With a fresh bottom paint job, buffed out and waxed topsides and an empty wallet, Moonshot was ready to head back to its home berth. Bernie and several of his friends volunteered to help sail back. It did sail better, but I could tell the problem wasn't totally solved yet.

 

BOAT PHOTOGRAPHY

 

            We still didn't have any pictures of Moonshot under sail. It's a hard thing to work out alone because you're on your boat when it's sailing, but it's something to talk about with another boater. Joe Rockmore and I talked about it several times over lunch. Finally, an opportunity came when he was anticipating being up in our part of the bay on a Sunday afternoon. We agreed to check in with each other by radio at 2:00 PM. The winds had started to pick up to between 25 - 30 knots. In the first radio contact with Joe, we talked about canceling because of the rough conditions. We stayed in radio contact and because we happened to be very close to each other, we decided to give the plan a try anyway. After several attempts at explaining our whereabouts over the radio, we gained visual contact. Joe complained that our radio transmission wasn't very clear.

            Once we were close, we began tacking back and forth approaching each other from a variety of angles, shooting pictures at each pass. It was somewhat disappointing because we had half of the jib furled in and the mainsail was reefed. We were hoping for full sail shots. We forged ahead with the plan though. After the film was developed, Joe and I got together for lunch to swap photographs. Each of us had a few good ones but we agreed we needed a less blustery day to do it right. We finally had some pictures of Moonshot under sail.

 

Figure 7: Moonshot under sail

 

BOTTOM CLEANING

 

            People on the docks were starting to comment on the growth on the bottom of Moonshot and with the conversation came the idea of paying a diver to clean the hull periodically. We hadn't thought much about it, but the comments were that the growth slows down a sailboat considerablely. In the same spirit that causes you to pay more attention to sail trim when sailing next to another sailboat, we became committed to the notion. Eventually, I spotted a local diver working on a boat nearby and made arrangements for him to start cleaning Moonshot's hull on a quarterly basis. He scheduled our first cleaning for the following week.

            It seemed like a small thing, but the anticipation of a faster Moonshot was exciting. We would have to wait a couple of weekends to find out what impact it would have. Our first sail after the hull cleaning turned out to be a night sail. It was a full moon and warm for the season and all it took to get us out was this anticipation. The experience was well worth it. We could easily feel the difference. Moonshot was gliding through the water. The sensation of the smoother sailing with the reflection of the moon in the foreground was one worth savoring.

            We needed to update our budget, but the expense seemed like a good value, the cost was $1.00 per foot for the cleaning. In addition to cleaning the hull, he made comments on the invoice about any observations he made while doing the work. One of the first observations was that the sacrificial zinc on our propeller shaft needed replacing and this was a service he provided. He also made comments on the condition of the paint and on damage or blistering.

 

THE NASTY JOB

 

            One day, the head started acting up. There were mineral deposits building up on the inside of the drain opening and it wasn't functioning very well. This is one of the last things we wanted to deal with during pleasure hours, but eventually it had to be done. Having the head wear out can make you feel like your whole boat is wearing out. Strolling the isles at West Marine, we discovered head rebuild kits. We identified the correct model and proceeded to dive into the project one weekend. This was all new to me and as I started taking the pump mechanism apart, yucky, smelly fluid started leaking onto the floor, under the bulkhead and into the cabin. PEEEEEE YOUUUUUU!!! I handed the pump unit to Marsha to take outside so it could be scraped and hosed.

            Hank and Polly were another couple we frequently ran into on the docks. Like Richard and Hillarie, they were also busy working on their boat and planning on going cruising in a couple of years, when Hank retired. Their boat was an Aries 34 named Shellback. Hank would make comments to us frequently, exercising his subtle, dry sense of humor. Hank and Richard were talking across the dock in front of Richard's boat when Marsha climbed off Moonshot with the pump. They both started laughing and said, "We know what you're doing." They were sympathetic as if they had been there and done that. Becoming familiar with the project is something that hits every boater sooner or later. Still there was a tone in their collective voice reflecting the attitude, "You're a rookie until you've rebuilt a few marine toilets."

            I must admit, when we finally got the pump put back together with the new rubber parts, it worked fine. That feeling that had been creeping up, that the boat was wearing out, went away. It was as if a dark cloud overhead was dissolving and being replaced with clear blue sky, that is, once I cleaned up the mess I had made.

 

VISITING SISTER

 

            My younger sister Shelley is a pretty, slender blond woman with the same large nose and brown eyes I inherited from my father. She married young and quickly had three children shortly thereafter. The children were getting old enough where she finally had a moment to breath occasionally. I had always encouraged her to consider college when the kids were in school and that time was getting near. The best encouragement I could give her was that it took blind faith to make it through. Blind faith in pursuing the finer things in life was the best the school experience had to offer going through all the effort. The credentials were the key to being able to make greater contributions in life. If she never made another contribution, her 3 children are significant, but the conversation provided encouragement at the time. I gave her an open invitation to come to California on her own for a week anytime she could manage to get away. She decided to take me up on my offer before school started, thinking it would be a great way to get away from it all. She was eager to spend some time on the boat she had heard us talk about so much. We planned to sail up to the city for the Labor Day weekend. The weather was forecasted to be warm with mild winds for the entire three days. I made a slip reservation at Pier 39 for Saturday night. Tom Wagen had recently purchased a new powerboat which we planned on meeting up with on Sunday.

            After a great sail up to San Francisco, we decided to pull into Pier 39 early in the afternoon so we would have plenty of time to tour the city before the sun went down. The best approach to the city is to reach across the slot fairly close to the wind but not quite on an uncomfortable beat, all the way to Angel Island, tacking before losing the wind on its lee side. Then, compensating for the current, head straight for Pier 39. We found our assigned berth and tied up to the dock for the night. As we were walking along the pier to get a gate key and pay the harbormaster, I realized how impressive it is for someone visiting San Francisco for the first time to be able to enter the city by boat. Unlike Detroit, where your eyes burned when you sailed by, you just smell good food sailing around San Francisco Bay.

 

Figure 8: Shelley on the approach to the city

 

            Though Pier 39 kept escalating their rates dramatically compared to the other marinas on the city front, it was still not much more expensive than parking a car. We had plenty of time to do the tourist things, like walk through Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square and ride the cable car. One of the high points of a good tour is enjoying Irish coffee at the Bella Vista after dinner. Another "must" is white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies from Blue Chip Cookies. Marsha loves the clam chowder from vendors on the wharf. I always wait for her nose to pick the best available.

            The most commonly seen street entertainer near the water is the young black boy playing bongo drums on the sidewalk between Pier 39 and Fisherman's wharf. Second to him are the musicians at the entrance to Ghirardelli and at the Cable Car turnstile across from the Bella Vista. Then come the mimes on many of the street corners. There are also jugglers and one guy dressed up as a jukebox. They all probably make a good living at it, including the mime with the sign reading, "This job sucks, but I need the bucks." These special people etch their way into many visitors’ memories of San Francisco. One of the fun aspects of doing the tourist thing by boat is, after you're done touring, when everyone else has to deal with finding their car and driving out of the city, you just stroll down to the dock and close the hatch for the evening. Then you get to fall asleep rocking gently. The next best thing to being able to crash on a boat for the evening while visiting the city is waking up early to smell the fresh air and hear the seagulls. You can stroll through the shops along Pier 39 before the throngs of people get there. Eventually your feet take you to Bodine's Bakery where your nose discovers they've just finished baking a variety of fresh croissants and brewing fresh coffee.

            We wanted to check out before the crowds, so we took showers and were gone by 11:00. Because the winds hadn't picked up, we enjoyed a casual jib-only sail across to Hospital Cove on the lee side of Angel Island. Jib sailing is great because it's so easy, as long as the winds are favorable. It's hard to beat to weather that way. This sail was a reach. We arrived by noon and were fortunate to be able to tie up to one of the few mooring buoys there. We weren't expecting Tom and Kelly until around 2:00 so we had time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Shelley and I decided to inflate our $79.00 toy dinghy and explore the beach. Marsha stayed behind to read for a while, sunning in the cockpit. We started hearing Tom' s voice on channel 16 around 2:30. We communicated until we were able to give him enough instructions to spot where we were moored. He informed us our radio transmission was weak and breaking up. He pulled his new 25' Baja powerboat Bay Dreamer up along side of Moonshot and tied up. His crew consisted of his wife Kelly and Goody, their new green-eyed Springer Spaniel puppy. Between us, we were stocked up on provisions to last the next 24 hours. We used Moonshot to keep the mooring buoy, and as a galley and head. We went motoring about on Bay Dreamer.

            I hadn't spent any time on powerboats, so it was a new experience when Tom and I went for a ride. Once we got away from the Island, Tom hit some lever and the seat portions of the two front seats folded down. As he increased the throttle, I could feel the seats weren't needed, I was forced against the backrest. There were inclined platforms on the floor for your feet and a stainless steel handle bar to hold on to. It felt just like water skiing except I was inside the boat. The afternoon chop in the bay water was typically thick, but we were cutting through it as if the water was calm. Slowly but steadily, a grin appeared on my face as we approached the stanchions of the Golden Gate Bridge in just minutes. We circled the bridge stanchions, and then sped around the other side of Angel Island through Raccoon Straight. We were back in no time to pick up the rest of the crew and cruise by the city front. It was great fun.

            Back on Moonshot, we prepared an outstanding dinner. Kelly brought a tossed salad and dessert. We grilled steaks and potatoes. It was dark out before we finished dessert, though the moon was full providing good visibility. Marsha was getting tired and wanted to stay with Moonshot and Goody. Shelley, Tom, Kelly and I ventured back out on Tom's boat to Sam's in Tiburon. Sam's is a popular restaurant on the water with a few dock spaces. We were lucky one of the slips was empty. After drinks and much laughter, we headed back to raft back up to Moonshot for the evening. Tom and Kelly hadn't planned on staying over night and didn't have bedding, but they had a large V-berth. The weather was so nice it seemed like the only thing to do was stay over so we scrounged for spare bedding from our hatches to make them comfortable. Because the conditions were so mellow and we were having so much fun, we just didn't want the night to end. But they always do so we called it a night and went to sleep. This was the perfect situation on the bay, having a home base on the water behind Angel Island, with a fast powerboat to go places around San Francisco Bay.

            The next morning we drove Bay Dreamer back to Sam's for breakfast. Again we were lucky and got a dock space just as someone else was leaving. After a hearty meal we were ready for the day. Tom dropped us off at Moonshot, said goodbye, and we prepared for the sail home, just as the winds started picking up. I had to tell Shelley this wasn't typical of life in California. The timing of her visit was great. The sail home was a perfect way to end the three-day weekend. Shelley's visit was good for her. She left us with a saying we had not been introduced to yet, "Shit Happens".

 

Figure 9: Tom and Steve on Bay Dreamer

 

SPYC MYSTERY CRUISE

 

            September of 1987 was our first exposure to the Sierra Point Yacht Club, SPYC, and to the yacht club scene in general. We had heard there was one in the developing stages in our marina. At the time, the yacht club existed on paper, but had no facilities. For its first couple of years, we had been so busy learning how to sail in San Francisco Bay and working on the boat that we didn't have time to get involved. There was a point in time when we both started thinking it could be fun helping a young yacht club get started. Occasionally, we would talk to Wayne, our neighbor across the dock. Wayne was the skipper of a Bombay Clipper. He had made comments that all the club seemed to do was argue. Then in September, we saw a flyer advertising an SPYC sponsored Mystery Cruise.

            The Mystery Cruise was part of a membership drive. It sounded like fun so we signed up. There was a sheet of instructions distributed at the skippers meeting in the harbormaster's office. Jeff and Jayne Eastman were organizing the event. The instruction sheet had navigational puzzles that would lead us to an anchored vessel that would give us another sheet of instructions. By figuring out the second set of instructions, we would decipher the mystery and learn where we would be tying up for dinner that evening.

            Our dog Cindy is half German shepherd and half Doberman. She was given to us by David and Marcy Albert. Marsha's previous dog, Bobo, had died a few months ago and her grieving was over. She had started talking about getting another dog. I was thinking about getting her one for her birthday when Marcy called. I turned her down because the dog's description made me think it was too large for us. Marcy was persistent and called again inviting us over for dinner. Jim and Joanne Callan were there as well. We took Cindy home under the terms of the typical puppy dog sales agreement. You can bring her back, if you don't like her. Cindy got used to the boat, but I don't think she ever really liked being on the water. She loved sleeping with us in the V-berth but eventually grew too large so we let her up with us only in the morning, shortly before waking up for the day.

            With Cindy on board, we got underway on the Mystery Cruise, sorting through the clues in the instructions and plotting the course. The first set of instructions was fairly straightforward. We realized that once you know the destination you don't have to follow the course as outlined, just head for it, so we did. We met up with the vessel Char Mar, an Aries 32 owned by Charley and Mary Carlson. It was anchored off Tiburon in the Raccoon Straight. They handed us the next page of instructions as we came along side. Charley advised us to work out the course before heading out. He also said someone would be watching at each waypoint to verify if we made it around the course. With Marsha and Cindy at the helm, I went below. I had figured out the directions for the first mark and told Marsha to proceed on a 190 degree heading, and that I would figure out the rest as we went. This was a mistake. We should have taken Charley's advice and figured it out first. There were a few red herrings in the list of course legs. Marsha would have enjoyed working on the navigational puzzle too.

            We were almost under the Golden Gate Bridge and the water was getting increasingly choppy. I was still down below getting very frustrated because my calculations kept ending us up in the middle of San Francisco. I went above to discuss the problem with Marsha. I'm sure we would have eventually worked it out but we weren't in a good location to be doing that. We hailed Char Mar on 68, the hailing channel for event. We needed to learn the final destination without sounding too stupid, I had to think fast. I told Charley that my dog was getting seasick so we would be calling it quits. He informed me the Corinthian Yacht Club was the final destination. We would all be rafting together off their guest dock. We were to wait outside the harbor where Char Mar was anchored until other boats had finished the course so they could manage the rafting in an orderly manner. That didn't sound too incredible, I mean my dog could be too sick to finish the course, no?

            That was the first time we had ever gotten the miserable anchor that came with the boat to set, there must have been a magnetic sea floor. While anchored, we got to watch the other boaters waiting with us. We saw Marty and Betty Rosenthal on their Grand Banks trawler Poquito and Craig Levin and his friend Sharon on Decoy, a 28' Hunter sloop. Other boats eventually started coming and finally Jeff and Jayne appeared on Skypilot, a 36' IOR race sloop. We began heading into the harbor single file and one by one, 13 boats ended up rafting up off the single guest dock. It worked. Every boat had spring lines between each other. Jeff also ran a safety line between the outer most boat and the docks. We were the 9th boat from the guest dock.

 

Figure 10: Mystery cruise raft-up at Corinthian Yacht Club

 

            To get off the boat, we had to walk across all the other boats and Cindy was anxious to go ashore. Passing over each boat was a new learning experience for her. Some were sailboats, some were powerboats, each having its own boarding idiosyncrasies. The last boat was Mary Anne, a Searay owned by Larry and Mary Anne Dulmage. By the time I had gotten Cindy ashore and walked her, I learned that though she may have become used to our boat and our marina, she wasn't very interested in other boats and marinas. Back we went over the 8 boats to get her to the safety of Moonshot.

            People had fun milling around, talking, drinking, and munching appetizers before heading up to the yacht club for dinner. Eventually we made it up to the club and had a delicious prime rib dinner while enjoying light conversation with the people we were meeting. There were two large tables for our group and seating was random. We spent time talking with Betty and Marty. Only Jeff and Jayne had finished the course so we didn't feel so bad about our performance.

            Leaving the table after dinner, I got the idea to walk into the club's kitchen and ask for a bone for Cindy. One of the hands in the galley looked at me and got a gleam in his eye and said, "Well, all I have is this one," as he reached into a refrigerated locker. He came out with a cow's upper leg bone. It was about 2-1/2 feet long and was huge. It was so absurd that I started laughing and took the bone. So there I was hauling this cow's leg bone over all the boats. Cindy was intimidated by its size and didn't know what to do with it except lick it a few times. There the bone sat in the cockpit for everyone crossing our boat to see through the night and the next morning.

            We started the next day early. I had to walk Cindy again, so one more trip for her back and forth over all the boats. Then, with the dog securely on board, we joined some of the people for a morning stroll through Tiburon for pastries and cappuccino. It was 11:00 before the raft up started pealing away, one-by-one. So when it was our turn, we untied and waved good-bye.

 

THE STOLISHNOIA EXCEPTION

 

            The weather conditions were mild as we were leaving and it was still early, so we decided to head out under the Golden Gate Bridge again. We didn't realize it yet, but we were about to experience a most wonderful, unforgettable day of sailing. I was just wearing lightweight rubberized rain pants and with no shoes. Cindy was safely tied to the boat with a lifeline. Being near the water on a boat makes me want to drink a beer. I'm sure alcohol has been responsible for many or even a majority of the boating accidents that have occurred. Based on my personal experience, I would never drink anything stronger than beer until the anchor is set or the boat is back in port for the evening. There's nothing more enjoyable than the first margarita or rum drink when the anchor is securely set after a good day of sailing. The warmer the weather, the better it is. After that and into the night, it's up to the consumer, but it's best if there is one capable watch person on board to remedy problems such as the possibility of the anchor dragging. To sum up the topic, it's best to be prudent and know your own limits, but enjoy yourself.

            It was exciting finally going under the gate in calm conditions. Although out of character, but worthy of the celebration, I decided to make a couple of Stoli Bloody Marys. A warm gentle wind less than 10 knots started to blow. It was enough to move the boat comfortably with the large Genoa furled out all the way. As we were passing Mile Rock, we started to feel the rollers. There was a large period between the swells and the waves were not too large. The surface of the waves was smooth so we just felt the slow gentle rollers with no churning sensation. It made us both feel absolutely wonderful.

            We tacked back and forth a couple of miles offshore until late afternoon. The great weather and sea conditions and wonderful feeling weren't going away and we didn't want to stop. We talked about taking off right then for Hawaii, but I guess we hadn't had that many Bloody Marys, so finally we decided we had better start the journey back to homeport. We aimed Moonshot toward the Golden Gate and San Francisco with the sails trimmed wing-on-wing. We started experiencing some of the rip tides that occur once inside the gate, though they were mild. To keep the jib from flogging, I used the boat hook. It would have been the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a whisker pole, had we been so equipped. See how the list gets longer?

            The sailing was tremendous the rest of the way back home, but yes, the day did have to end. It was after dark before we got back to our part of the bay. There wasn't much of a moon to help us, so we just had to be patient trying to identify landmarks until we found our channel. We found a channel all right, but half way in we realized that the markers were wooden tripod structures instead of concrete columns, so it couldn't be the correct channel. Finally, we saw the lights to our channel about half a mile north so we concluded we were entering Oyster Point Marina and turned around. We made it home safely. Sailing at night is a neat experience. The bay has plenty of lights all around, even if the moon isn't out. The winds are generally not as strong as they are in the afternoon, but are usually steady. You need to keep a lookout for flotsam and jetsam, as well as other boats. It's fun learning how to read the red, green and white lights of another vessel to determine if it's coming or going. The challenge of not having daylight or the sun making your surroundings perfectly clear, coupled with differences between your day and night vision, provides an exhilarating enhancement to the sailing experience. Just make sure you dress warm enough and it can be great fun.

 

Figure 11: San Francisco Bay sailing area

 

VISITING THE TOP OF THE MAST

 

            It was time to think about a trip up the mast to fix a few problems. We had been hearing more and more comments about our poor radio transmission and started trying to debug the problem. First we purchased a digital voltage/amp meter. Craig helped me work through isolating a broken circuit in the radio antenna system. By process of elimination, we ruled out where the wire came out of the mast at its base.

            We had purchased a boson's chair a few months back to replace a burnt out light bulb in one of the spreader lights. This made it straightforward for someone to be hoisted up the mast with a halyard, a winch, and two people cranking and tailing. Marsha and I had hoisted Bernie to the spreader to remove the burnt out bulb. The spreader lights were now falling apart so we purchased a replacement set for the trip up. I would also try to debug the steaming light problem, as it hadn't been working for some time. It was a continuing problem. We had asked the folks at Miller Marina's boat yard to fix it once. They tried to charge for an extra 2 hours of labor for fishing the wire through the mast once they let it slip through. You have to watch out for unskilled labor on your projects at boat yards. You get charged for skilled prices and it can get very expensive on a time and materials basis. The more work you can get done yourself, the better.

            With tools in the pockets of the boson's chair, including a soldering iron attached to an extension cord, Craig and Marsha hoisted me to the top of the mast. It was my first time all the way up. I had to pause in my repair work to fathom the experience. The view of the area was better than I had seen, you could see all the boats in the marina and out into the bay. Then someone below decided to walk around changing the weight distribution on deck. I started swaying back-and-forth. Once you're used to that, it becomes fun, but I had work to do so I started to focus.

            I took the antenna connector apart and sure enough, the wire wasn't connected to the antenna. It was fairly quick work to strip the wire and solder it correctly. From its appearance, it was hard to believe it had ever been connected. It became clear to me it would be wise to tie safety lines to heavy tools up that high and have the crew below stand clear while I worked. Moving down the mast, I had the ground crew stop me at the steaming light. When I took the light assembly apart, I could see one of the two wires had broken away from the socket. I stripped back the insulation on the wire and fed it through the hole in the socket. I then formed the end of the wire into a ball and soldered it to emulate the shape of the old end piece. The bulb would now mate correctly with the wire. It worked fine, so I reattached the assembly to the mast. Next job, replacing the spreader lights. The old sockets just weren't holding the bulbs in place, they had been hanging down from the sockets a few inches and been swinging wildly as we sailed. The new fixtures looked similar to the old ones but the mounting holes weren't in the same location. So there I was swinging in the chair with an electric drill, drilling holes on the under side of the spreaders to make the attachment. I was hanging almost upside down to get the proper leverage to drill the holes but it worked OK. I had now mastered working on the mast and came down to clean up after the weekend projects and go sailing.

 

NEW GOALS

 

            After 3 years of sailing on the bay, a change in my thinking started occurring. I had been writing in journals since shortly after graduating from college. I had gained much respect for writing in the form of a diary. I had also come to have a high degree of respect for thoughts and thinking. Writing is a form of mental registration. The exercise of the mind sending motor signals to the arm and wrist to write down what is in the thinking portion of the brain crystallizes the thoughts and stores them in a different form than not having written them. The thoughts become more real and powerful. The process of writing down what the thinking is stimulates internal dialog. Several years prior, I asked myself, "If one of us is Steve, who is the other voice?" Several hours later, I came back with an answer to my question. The answer was "My God". It hit me like a bolt of lightning. The single thought formed the basis of my spiritual development. As this relates to internal dialog, the other voice is a person's connection to the infinite intelligence of the unified one reality made up of all living things. Any questions?

            My writing to date had primarily focused on my career, where I was going professionally, learning about and moving towards where I fit in the world, and what contribution I was to make. The metabolic shift occurred one day while sitting on a plane flying back east. While writing in my journal, I turned my steno pad over to the flip side and started writing about living aboard a boat. Some of my thinking on boating before was on the differences between what kind of experiences I enjoyed and those that Marsha enjoyed. I never experienced much fear and enjoyed trying anything new. Marsha was usually focusing on safety. While sailing in Michigan without her, I was learning at my own pace on demand, dealing with whatever as the need arose. Sailing, with her, felt constrained at times. While trying to understand that feeling and learning more about boating and sailing, as time passed, I began to realize how much I didn't know and how much safer boating is with knowledge. So I started focusing on understanding the theory by reading books, etc. Eventually, this change in attitude had a marked affect on the sailing experience with Marsha. Instead of slowing down or resisting my forward moves to do more exciting things, all of a sudden Marsha began accelerating forward. Our conversations turned towards more radical ideas like living on a boat and going cruising on a longer-term basis. Our personal goals started unifying.

 

[Table of Contents] [Next]


Keys to the Golden Gate, Copyright © 2002 by Steve Sears